Making Beer From Grain

Introduction - Making Beer from original ingredients like malt and hops

Brewing from beer kits and malt extract gives an excellent overview of the brewing process. It gives the understanding and experience you need about the following:

  • Hygiene.
  • Making a fermentable wort to a given temperature.
  • Yeast pitching.
  • Fermentation.
  • Judging the end of fermentation.
  • Barreling / bottling.
  • Conditioning.
  • Maturing.
  • Dispensing.

The missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle is how you make what’s in the tin. The sweet sticky syrup in the tin is condensed wort (pronounced wurt). The mashing process produces wort. The proper, traditional and only way to make quality beer and ale.

THE Mashing Process ~ Theory

Crushed malted barley is mixed with hot water to make a porridge at 150f (65.5C) and held at this temperature for 60 minutes. The starch in the grain turns to sugars.

This liquid (wort) is run off into a boiler and sparged (washed) with slightly hotter water to rinse out the remaining sugars. The collected liquid is boiled in the boiler with hops for about 60 minutes. The hops are added in two stages. The first is the copper (boiler) hops, which are added at the start of the boil, these give the bitterness to the beer. The second hops are the late or aroma hops. These are added about 10 minutes before the end of the boil and give character and flavour. The liquid is the rapidly cooled, run into a fermenter, pitched with yeast and left to ferment. At the end of fermentation it is fined to help it fall bright and put into bottles or barrel to condition and mature.

Crushed malted barley + water at 150f >>> starch turns to sugars and makes wort
Wort boiled with hops >>> adds bitterness, flavour and stability
Fermented with yeast >>> makes alcohol and CO2
Barreled / bottled and conditioned >>> becomes beer

How To Mash

Water Treatment

Our water supply needs additions to make it suitable for brewing.

Chlorine if present must be treated by adding 1 crushed Camden tablet for 5 gallons and leaving for 30 mins. The water treatment shown below is suitable for North Surrey. For other areas ask for advice.

Mash Liquor

Put 20 lt. of cold water into the liquor boiler and add 1.5 ml lactic acid. Warm to 170f (82C)

The Grist

Crush the grain and mix in the dry water treatment salts. 2 teaspoons calcium sulphate, 1 teaspoon sodium chloride and ½ teaspoon magnesium sulphate.

Spare Liquor

As soon as the liquor boiler is available put 20 lt. of cold water add 3 ml. Lactic acid and heat to 176f (80C)

The Mash

Pre warm the mash tun with a kettle of boiling water. Double check the mash liquor temperature is 170f and run it into the mash tun filling it 2/3 full. Leave for 2 mins and check that the temperature is now 160f (72C) adjust accordingly. This is called the strike heat. It is important to get this right. Mix in the grains into the mash water making sure there are no air pockets. The mash should be 2 to 3 inches from the top. Check the temperature which should be 150f (65.5c) adjust as necessary by running off some liquid into a jug with some boiling or cold water in it and putting it back on top of the mash. This procedure should be repeated at 20 mins and 40 mins. to equalize the temperature, ensure thorough enzyme activity and firm up the grain bed. Recommended mash time is 60 minutes.

Run Off

At the end of the mash the wort has to be run into the boiler. This has to be done slowly and carefully. If it is cloudy run it into a jug and return it to the top until it runs bright.

The Sparge

When the grains start to look dry sparge the grains to collect the sugars trapped in the grain. It is important that the sparge liquor is at 176f. Collect in all 6 gallons in your boiler.

The Boil

Bring the liquid to the boil as quickly as possible. Take the “scum” off the top and discard. When it is boiling well add the copper hops and get them into “ a good rolling boil ” That is with the hops circulating well in the liquid. It is inevitable that some liquid will be boil away. 10% is normal and acceptable in a 60 min boil. Do not under any circumstance add any extra water. You will be watering down your own beer! 10 mins before the end the Irish moss must be added (which will help clear the beer) and the late hop added which gives extra flavour. Recommended boil time 60 mins.

Crash Cooling

At the end of the boil put the crash cooler into the liquid, there is no need to sterilize it as the boiling water does this. Connect the cooler to the cold water tap and the temperature should reduce to pitching perature of 18C to 20C in 25 mins in winter and 40 in summer.


Run in the cooled liquid to the pre sterilize and double rinsed fermenter.Put this in a large cardboard box in a moderately warm place.Sprinkle the yeast on top but DO NOT STIR IN. Fermentation will take 4 to 7 days depending on yeast type. Then continue the process as you have for your kit beers.

Beer Recipes

Recipes are included in these notes and one or more of the beers will be sampled at lunchtime. DO think of making up your own recipes. Study “BREW BRITISH REAL AT HOME” and read the grain and hop guides. You can spend many fascinating hours reading and analyzing them and it is very satisfying to create your own recipes.

Further Reading

Graham Wheeler: CAMRA Guide to home Brewing Wheeler and Protz: Brew your own British real ale at home.


  • Insulated mash tun
  • Sparging arm
  • Single element hot liquor tank (boiler)
  • Two element boiler
  • Crash cooler

You can make do with one boiler if you want to but two are better. The equipment can be made d.i.y. if you like.

By Richard Burns.

Any queries phone Paul on 020 8644 0934

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